Road Trip Checklist: Try these 8 Tips For A Happier Ride!

By Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP  

Have you realized that your smallest passengers can be overwhelmed by the sensory information a simple car ride provides to their little bodies? As you prepare for your journey, think about it, their visual systems are processing all that there is to see inside and outside the windows, their vestibular systems are processing the speed and movement of the vehicle, the proprioceptive and tactile senses are activated by the jostling and bumping, car seat harnesses and seat belts, their auditory system is processing noise from siblings, parents, and the radio, and their olfactory system may be trying to sort through the many scents of car-garbage, gasoline, and your perfume! It can all be a bit too much and depending on how your child processes all of this sensory information, you could end up with a stir-crazy or motion-sick child. We know that proprioceptive input (sensory information to the muscles and joints like pushing/pulling/carrying) is calming and organizing. On a road trip, it’s important to consider how to give your child targeted sensory input to help regulate them when their sensory systems are being overloaded.

Road Trip Provisions to Consider:

  • Pack crunchy, chewy snacks like hard sourdough pretzels, carrots, celery. Poke a straw through the lid of your child’s yogurt or applesauce to contain the mess and give another opportunity to work those oral muscles. Keep mouths working while providing proprioceptive input that is calming and organizing! 
  • Think about the clothes you’re dressing your child in for the long trip. Tight fitting lycra-wear for that extra input instead of rough fabrics can be helpful. Under AmourNike and GapFit make great kids layering clothes.
  • Pre-fill water bottles to contain potential messes. Water bottles with a thick straw require more effort to bite and suck through (providing more sensory feedback!). I love the Camelbak water bottle for kids.
  • Consider what’s on your radio and offer headphones to block out the noise or provide kid-specific tunes that you know aren’t too alerting for them. Cool Mom Tech did a great round-up of volume limiting headphones for under $30, which includes these cute BuddyPhones.
  • For little ones who need some extra input, give them a weighted stuffed animal as a road trip buddy to hug!
  • For your motion sick-prone kiddos, calm their olfactory system with Peppermint Essential Oils on their wrists or apply targeted pressure with Motion-sick Relief bands in fun colorful prints! 
  • iPads and Tablets offer hours of entertainment, which is really helpful on a long journey, but just remember that you’re adding visual information to an already stimulating car trip so this may backfire if you don’t intersperse screen time with other activities!
  • Bring DIY Busy Bags! Fine motor manipulatives and sensory fidgets like Toysmith wood Puzzles and Tangle, Jr. are great, just make sure all their favorites are all in arms reach. 

    What do you pack for your road trips? Contact us, we'd love to know.